About Hanukkah, a minor Jewish holiday that’s a major deal – Salt Lake Tribune

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014




But Hanukkah is still important, and underscores one of the most significant themes in Jewish history: the struggle to practice Judaism when powerful forces seek to extinguish it.

Q • Why does the miracle of Hanukkah lead Jews to eat jelly donuts?

It’s all about the oil. When the pious Maccabees reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem, around 165 B.C. , they found only enough unadulterated oil to light the temple’s candelabra, or menorah, for one day. But miraculously, according to the Talmud, a body of rabbinic teaching, the oil lasted for eight days.

To celebrate Hanukkah, aka the Festival of Lights, Jews light a candle on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second, and one more on each successive night of the eight-night holiday. Gastronomically, Hanukkah focuses on foods cooked in oil, most typically latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) and jelly donuts.

Q • Hanukkah? Chanukkah, Hanukka. How come there are a million different ways to spell it?

Variations abound mostly because of the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the “chet,” with which the word “Hanukkah” begins in Hebrew. “Chet” doesn’t have an equivalent in English. And the double K’s? In classical Hebrew, there’s a dot in the middle of the Hebrew letter “kaf,” which indicates an especially robust “k” sound.

Q • OK, now that I know how to spell it, what does it mean?

Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew, in that the temple, which had been turned into a pagan shrine, was rededicated to God.

Q • Do Jewish children get presents on all eight nights of Hanukkah?

 



 






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